1933: The Akron airship disaster


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In the 1930s, lighter than air ships, or dirigibles where the rage for long distance flight. Trans-ocean flight by airplanes was virtually impossible, especially as a passenger service. Planes would have to hop and skip from one re-fueling station to another across the north Atlantic. Long distance non-stop flight was still a way off not coming into practical availability until well after world War II. So, the big balloons where the rage. Many of them would ultimately meet with disaster including the US Shenandoah and the famous explosion and crash of the German air ship, Hindenburg in Lakehurst New Jersey in 1937. The Shenandoah had crashed 12 years earlier than the Hindenburg in 1925 when it flew through a thunderstorm. But the big ships kept flying. The Akron made many flights across the US as a promotion for the US Navy. The Akron was on such a flight on the early morning of April 4, 1933 off the coast of New jersey. It soon encountered severe weather, which did not improve when the airship passed over Barnegat Light, New Jersey. The Akron broke up rapidly and sank in the stormy Atlantic. The crew of a nearby German merchant ship saw lights descending toward the ocean at about 12:23 a.m. and altered course to investigate. The Akron slowly sunk in the ocean, the accident left 73 dead, and only three survivors. The day of the lighter than air ships would continue for several more years only to meet with one disaster after another almost all fueled by encounters with violent weather.

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